The South Africa Rugby Union and the Southern Kings have denied they have struck a financial deal that will delay their entry into the Super Rugby competition.
The Port Elizabeth-based Kings were due to join the competition next year, but according to a newspaper report in the Republic, they have agreed to wait until 2016 in return for a $6 million payment from SARU.
It was reported that they have been persuaded to wait a further three years by which stage a new broadcast rights deal will have been brokered that SARU hopes will allow an expansion of the existing competition and remove the need for one of the existing South African sides to make way for the Kings.
SARU dismissed the reports as speculation and stressed that negotiations surrounding the 2013 Super Rugby participation are "ongoing".
The Johannesburg-based Lions were widely expected to lose out after finishing bottom of the South African conference this year behind the Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs.
SARU announced last January that the Kings, who are based in the black rugby stronghold of the Eastern Cape and have long sought elevation to top-flight competitions, would play in Super Rugby next season.
But the union failed to persuade the competition organisers to increase the number of South African sides to six while the Kings, who play in the second tier of the domestic Currie Cup, named New Zealander Matt Sexton coach.